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Wallaby Watch: Breaking down the front-row options ahead of England

Wed, 25/05/2022, 3:42 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Wallabies backrower Lachie Swinton and NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres spoke about the excitement around the SCG hosting the third England Test.

With Super Rugby Pacific winding down, the attention and hype towards a highly-anticipated series with England in July.

There have been plenty of players that have used the competition to press their claims for higher honours, rewarded with selection in Dave Rennie's first training squad of 2022 back in April.

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Along with this, several stars have pressed their claim for a recall, peaking at the right time with finals and a stacked calendar on the horizon.

With this in mind, Rugby.com.au breaks down the options ahead of England, starting with the front row.

In the Squad - Players selected in the first squad of 2022

Allan Alaalatoa

The Brumbies captain continues to lead from the front as he guides the ACT-based to a home quarter-final.

Alaalatoa missed the middle of the season with a neck complaint but has more than made up for it on his return against the Kiwi sides.

With Taniela Tupou on the sidelines, Alaalatoa is making a strong claim to regain the starting spot he shared with the Reds enforcer.

Angus Bell

The 21-year-old has picked up where he left off at the end of the season, proving a key factor in the Waratahs' revival.

Bell's finest display of scrummaging came against the Hurricanes a fortnight ago, proving so dominant he and the 'Tahs pack forced Jason Holland to pull his starting props inside 35 minutes.

He will battle James Slipper for the starting spot at loosehead, but is showing he has the tools to go to the next level on the International stage,

Harry Johnson-Holmes

Johnson-Holmes was one of the main bolters in the Wallabies squad last month, earning a re-call after his dominant performances with Bell and Dave Porecki.

Injury has hit the one-time Wallaby at the worst time, however, he is hopeful of returning for the quarter-finals.

Given his value both sides of the scrum, Johnson-Holmes will be hoping his early-season form can warrant another shot at the gold jersey.

James Slipper

Speaking of props that can play both sides, James Slipper has been as reliable as it comes for the Brumbies.

Slipper has missed one game all season, rested for their away win over the Western Force in round seven, and has constantly shown why is one of the premier props in the competition.

He has shared time with Scott Sio towards the end of the season, leaving fresh and firing for an important battle with England.

Taniela Tupou

Tupou remains one of the deadliest players in Super Rugby, if not World Rugby, damaging scrums and defences at will.

The prop bullied opposition even down a man or two in the scrum, powering the Reds to an early-season winning streak.

His calf injury came at the worst time for the Reds, however, Tupou remains on track to play in July.

Folau Fainga’a

Fainga'a is one of several Brumbies hookers that has been rotated around by Dan McKellar in their quest for a Super Rugby title.

In saying that, Fainga'a has been favoured by McKellar in past weeks, featuring in all five games against the Kiwis, scoring in his last three.

Entering as the incumbent ensures the 27-year-old is in the perfect position for the International season, with plenty of competition ready to pounce.

Feleti Kaitu’u

Kaitu'u has embraced the chance to lead the Force, taking his game to another level.

The hooker has been one of their best in a disappointing year for the WA-based club, starting in eight of 12 games.

Whilst he has shared roles with Andrew Ready in past weeks, this can largely be attributed to their short turnarounds, with Kaitu'u expected to be firmly in the mix for the Wallabies once again.

Lachlan Lonergan

Lonergan has shared the starting responsibility with Fainga'a but has impressed every time he has got on the field.

The young hooker was one of several left at home for the Spring Tour, taking the chance to recharge after his debut caps and is producing some of his best Rugby.

Lonergan will be hoping to use the impending finals to push his case and show he can match it with the best.

David Porecki

Porecki has been the main revelation in the front-row department in 2022, continuing to rocket into contention for a debut Wallabies cap.

His call-up into the squad was well-deserved after a breakout year with the Waratahs, showing off his improved accuracy at lineout time and under-rated carry.

His experience of the English style of play could prove decisive, having plied his trade with London Irish, with the 29-year-old doing everything right so far to earn selection.

Pushing for selection - Players outside of the first training squad staking their claims

Pone Fa’amausili

Fa'amausili is making up for lost time with the Rebels after finally overcoming a calf injury that plagued him in 2021.

The Rebel would've likely made his debut had it not been for back-to-back injuries, with his explosiveness on full display over the past couple of weeks.

With Tupou and Johnson-Holmes on the sidelines, Fa'amausili will have one last chance to impress when the Rebels host the Highlanders on Sunday.

Tom Robertson

Robertson is another who has struggled with injury in 2022, looking to impress for the Force.

He earned a call-up in the Rugby Championship after a strong 2021, however, had his season derailed in round four after picking up a calf injury.

Since then, he has proven a valuable and reliable piece of the Force's pack, eager to reclaim his spot in the squad and the 23.

Scott Sio

Sio has been one of the standouts of the past six weeks for the Brumbies.

He seemed to take his omission from the Wallabies squad personally, producing one of his best games in his career in Super Round against the Highlanders.

He has since backed that up several times to put himself firmly on the radar for selection.

Billy Pollard

The biggest bolter in this list but Pollard has been a revelation for the Brumbies.

He has constantly held out the likes of Lonergan, Fainga'a and Connal McInerney in the matchday squad, earning his maiden start against Fijian Drua.

The 20-year-old is one for the future but don't be surprised if he is called into a national or Australia A set-up in the coming months.

Jordan Uelese

Uelese is another who has struggled with injuries but has shown his class for the Rebels.

The Melbourne-bred hooker was used three times by Dave Rennie in 2021 off the bench, featuring in two Bledisloe Tests.

The 25-year-old will view Sunday's clash with the Highlanders as his chance to shine, eager for a recall.

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